Issue 248 - SafetyNet 248
The VTHC OHS Unit welcomes our subscribers to Edition 248 of the fortnightly OHS bulletin SafetyNet. We continue to have issues with our website and so we apologise for any inconvenience. If you have a comment on any of the items or have any queries, please contact us at email@example.com.
ACTU urges action on quad bikes
A summit held last week on quad bike safety must be followed by action to make crush protection devices compulsory on new quad bikes to reduce the unacceptably high death rate from rollovers. ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick said the summit had been a worthwhile exercise but - it was now time for the ACCC to act and make crush protection devices mandatory on all quad bikes sold in Australia. There have been 160 people killed in quad bike accidents since 2001.
'At least half of these deaths have occurred when a quad bike flipped over and crushed its rider,' he said. 'Crush protection devices, such as rollbars, could have been installed at minimal cost and stopped these accidents becoming fatalities. We have enough evidence that crush protection devices can save lives, it is now time for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to act'.
At the summit on Friday, Minister for Workplace Relations Bill Shorten announced that All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) used by federal employees will either be retro-fitted with crush protection devices or substituted with less-hazardous equipment. He also announced that Comcare would work with other regulators to sponsor the development of a technical standard to underpin the design, manufacture, testing and installation of crush protection devices for quad bikes during manufacture or for after-market applications.
Read more: ACTU Media Releases
Rollover protection devices must be made compulsory to stop quad bike fatalities, say unions and Quad Bike safety summit must be followed by action Minister Shorten's Media Release SafetyAtWork Blog: The world looks to Australia for quad bike safety changes ABC News
Asbestos Awareness Week and related activities
Coming up in November is Asbestos Awareness Week November 26 - 30. Please take note of annual services in Melbourne and Gippsland, organised by Asbestoswise and GARDS respectively, at 11am Friday 30 November. More information on these are other events is on the website
Asbestoswise Annual General Meeting 2012
The Asbestoswise Annual General Meeting will be held on Tuesday 13 November, 1-2pm at the Asbestoswise Office, 249-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Killer Company and Devil's Dust
In three weeks or so the ABC will be broadcasting the much anticipated mini-series 'Devil's Dust', which is based on Matt Peacock's book Killer Company. Matt first warned the public about the dangers of James Hardie's asbestos empire in an award-winning radio series in 1977. He has followed the tragic trail since then and in 2009 published his book. Killer Company is the inside story of how he and asbestos campaigner, Bernie Banton brought the company to account. A new edition of the book is in the stores now, this time smaller, cheaper and with an index.
'Devil's Dust': Matt worked as a consultant on Devil's Dust, the two-part series about the James Hardie asbestos saga, written by Kris Mrksa. The program will air on ABC1 on Sunday 11 and Monday 12 November.
NSW Asbestos Clean-up Delayed
The NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour has said that state government's inaction over the worst derelict asbestos mine is risking public health and exposes shortcomings in asbestos management. Apparently the decision to delay remediation at the toxic Woodsreef asbestos mine, north of Tamworth, was made to avoid disturbing threatened large-eared bats roosting in a derelict building at the site.
The site includes four open, unfenced mining pits, a 75-metre mound of fine asbestos tailings and a decrepit eight-storey building heavily contaminated with asbestos fibres. A public road divides the site and is regularly used by neighbours. In 2010, the ombudsman said the community should be concerned about the 'failure … of relevant agencies and successive governments to take effective action'. Remedial work is yet to begin at the site, which closed in 1983.
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald
US Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation supports Hotel workersCancelling a hotel contract for a major conference is no small feat, but the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization did just that to support hotel workers call for a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels. The group's 9th annual international conference is scheduled for March 23-24, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. They'd booked their event in 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, which is known for its close proximity to National Airport and a short subway ride into Washington, DC. But a few months ago, the AFL-CIO announced that it was officially endorsing UNITE HERE!'s global boycott of Hyatt Hotels. The AFL-CIO would be joining the NFL Players' Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, the National Organization for Women, the United Farmworkers Union and thousands of other individuals and groups who support the efforts of workers at Hyatt to secure better wages and working conditions. The AFL-CIO's endorsement of the boycott changed things for ADAO, an organization whose leadership understands that human rights, public health, and worker safety go hand-in-hand.
Read more: The Pump Handle Blog
NOTE: we continue to have technical problems with the Ask Renata function on the website. If you have sent in a query and not received a reply, we apologise – but please send it in again, directly to Renata at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week's question:
I've just removed an asbestos cement flue from my home. I read the information on your site so I wet it down before removing it and have now double wrapped it in black plastic and sealed it. Where can I dispose of it legally? I live in Melbourne's northern suburbs.
This is a real problem for many householders. It is legal for a hone owner in Victoria to remove asbestos from their own home, as long as it is not a 'workplace', as the Asbestos regulations only apply to workplaces.
However, the VTHC does not recommend that householders remove anything more than just a small quantity or 'piece' of asbestos containing material, as asbestos removal is hazardous and done badly could place the person as well as his/her family at risk.
The other problem with a DIY removal job is disposing of the asbestos waste. It is illegal to place the asbestos into normal rubbish, or to take it to a landfill that is not licensed to accept asbestos waste. Unfortunately, the ONLY landfill in the metropolitan area that accepts domestic asbestos waste is in Bulla.
More information: Where can I dispose of Asbestos Waste? More information on Asbestos in the Home, including how to recognise it, how to remove it, and so on.
If you have any OHS - related queries or questions, then why not send them in to Renata? Send in an email to email@example.com and we promise you a quick and easy to understand response within a couple of working days at the latest. And it's free!
NSW unions call for taskforce on working hours
Unions NSW has called on the State Government to establish a taskforce to look into the health effects of unpaid overtime and long working hours on the NSW working population. Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon called on the State Government to establish a dedicated taskforce to look into the issue. 'Sadly, the eight hour day has become a distant memory for a vast swathe of the NSW workforce,' Mr Lennon said.
Australians work some of the longest hours in the OECD, with recent research by Sydney University's Workplace Research Centre showing half of all full time employees work more than the standard 35 - 40 hour working week, with a quarter working more than fifty hours per week.
Read more: Unions NSW Media Release Eight Hour Day prompts calls for inquiry into health hazards of unpaid overtime
ACTU Reps' Survey Reminder
HSRs: Please remember the ACTU is conducting an online survey of workers' health and safety representatives (HSRs) including elected HSRs and workers' representatives on health and safety committees. The survey closes tomorrow so please make an effort and fill it out. It should only take about ten minutes to complete. The ACTU intends to release a report based on the results of the survey. No individual results will be reported
International Union News
Europe: Nanomaterials review won't protect workers
Workers will remain at risk from nanomaterials under measures set out by the European Commission this month, a European trade union group has warned. ETUI, part of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and with a dedicated health and safety unit, was commenting after the publication on 3 October of the Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials. ETUI said the review 'fails to propose a consistent strategy to guarantee the protection of workers handling or in contact with nanomaterials.' It warns that the Commission is making policy decisions while acknowledging it does not have the necessary health information to formulate an 'appropriate regulatory framework'. The union body said submissions required under the REACH chemicals regulations are 'insufficient and not useful to assess nanomaterials.' It warns: 'There is insufficient data and the Commission is not willing to adapt and make the rules for chemical safety assessment applicable to nanomaterials. The ETUI believes that no nanomaterials products should be in the market without their potential human health and environment effects being known.' It also notes: 'Information on the health of workers involved in the manufacturing and processing of nanoparticles is missing in the Communication as well as in the Staff Working Paper. Additionally, the Commission expects data results on occupational health and safety legislation by 2014. This proves that the Commission feels the need to obtain more data.' ETUI concludes: 'Clearly, the current Commission strategy on workers' protection is not sufficiently informed.'
European Commission news release and Second Regulatory Review on Nanomaterials [ pdf ] ETUI news report and 2010 working paper, The EU Approach to regulating Nanotechnologies. Source: Risks 577
WorkSafe warns on amputations
A recent spate of prosecutions and serious injuries involving dangerous machines has prompted a WorkSafe call for businesses to do all they can to make machines safer and help reduce the number of injuries. The regulator last week released statistics revealing that almost 450 body parts have been amputated from Victorian workers by common types of machinery used in Victorian workplaces over the past five years.
The amputations, together with cuts, crushing and other injuries to nearly 11,000 workers have led to a $220 million bill for medical treatment, rehabilitation and income support during the same period. More than half of these injuries occurred in Victoria's traditional manufacturing and logistics corridor around greater Melbourne - from Geelong to Dandenong. These injuries were caused by machines that cut, mix or convey materials and common power tools. Almost $2-million in fines have been imposed on employers following WorkSafe prosecutions relating to unguarded and unsafe machines.
WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe Vic records financial loss
Despite posting an after tax net loss of $676m, WorkSafe said that a record low rate of workplace injuries and sound claims management delivered a strong 2011/12 financial result. Acting CEO Ian Forsyth said, 'We've outperformed budgeted results to deliver an actuarial release of $182 million, driving a performance from insurance operations (PFIO) result of $385 million.' Mr Forsyth said PFIO was the most insightful measure of scheme annual performance given it focused on the fundamentals that management could be held accountable for delivering.
'Performance from insurance operations looks beyond external factors, such as interest rates and investment market performance, that can otherwise mask either good or bad scheme management,' he said. 'During 2011/12, factors beyond our control - such as fluctuations in bond yields due to falling interest rates and higher than expected inflation - had a negative impact on all businesses like ours, resulting in an after tax net loss of $676 million. However when you look through those external factors, the underlying fundamentals of the scheme are very strong.'
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release
WorkSafe warns of hay harvest hazards
WorkSafe has called on all farmers to be proactive and ensure the safety of themselves and their employees during the hay harvest season, which is a busy and dangerous time for Victorian farmers. Last week a man suffered a serious hand injury while clearing a blockage in a harvest machine near Macarthur in the state's west.
WorkSafe's General Manager of Health and Safety Operations, Lisa Sturzenegger, said, 'With the hay season upon us, the dangers often involved in farming will be magnified, particularly if the weather turns and people rush to get silage cut and stored.'
Common safety issues identified on farms include dangers of machine blockages, fire risks, overhead power lines, working alone, machine guarding and plant being used for other than its intended purpose. Ms Sturzenegger said getting on top of farm safety was often challenging because it might not be something farmers thought about every day. WorkSafe has detailed 20 'Safety Tips' for surviving the harvest season
Read more: WorkSafe Media Release Hay harvest hazards
Safe Work News
Codes of Practice
The model Code of Practice for Abrasive Blasting has been approved by Safe Work Australia. It applies to work where 'compressed air, liquid, steam, centrifugal wheels or paddles [are used] to clean, abrade, etch or otherwise change the original appearance or condition of [a] surface'.
All 12 second-stage model WHS Codes of Practice have now been approved. Safe Work Australia is currently revising the third and fourth set model Codes — as well as the Codes for Preventing and Managing Fatigue in the Workplace and Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying — based on public comment.
Last week SWA released the model Code of Practice for Spray Painting and Powder Coating. These activities are carried out in a variety of industries. For example, items that are commonly spray painted include motor vehicles, buildings, furniture, white goods, boats, ships, aircraft and machinery. Risks associated with these activities are numerous and include those arising from the hazardous chemicals used, fire and explosion, working in a confined space, working at height, manual handling and more.
Model Spray Painting and Powder Coating Code of Practice
New ten year strategy
Safe Work Australia has released the Australian Work Heath and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 which provides a 10 year framework 'to continue to drive improvements in workplace health and safety in Australia'. SWA says the Strategy promotes a collaborative approach between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and unions and other organisations to achieve the vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives. The strategy aims to reduce the number of fatalities due to injury by at least 20 per cent, and reduce the rate of injury claims and musculoskeletal claims that result in one or more weeks off work by at least 30 per cent, by 2022 Seven 'action areas', across seven high-priority industries have been identified, based on 'high numbers and rates of injury and/or fatalities [in 2012], or were by their nature hazardous': agriculture; road transport; manufacturing; construction; accommodation and food services; public administration and safety; and health care and social assistance.
The seven 'action areas' are:
- Healthy and safe by design;
- Supply chains and networks;
- Health and safety capabilities;
- Leadership and culture;
- Research and evaluation;
- Government; and
- Responsive and effective regulatory framework.
Latest Nanotech publications
Safe Work Australia has published the report: Human Health Hazard Assessment and Classification of Carbon Nanotubes which it commissioned NICNAS to do. In addition, an information sheet Classification of Carbon Nanotubes as Hazardous Chemicals has also been published.
The report recommends classification of carbon nanotubes as hazardous for repeated or prolonged inhalation exposure and for carcinogenicity. With respect to the carcinogenicity of carbon nanotubes, the Information sheet summarises it as follows: 'Based on the limited data available on mesothelioma formation in animal studies and difficulty in conclusively determining whether a specific multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) can present as a fibre of pathogenic dimensions, the report recommends that all MWCNTs should be considered as hazardous and classified for carcinogenicity as follows in accordance with:
- Approved Criteria – Classification: Carcinogen Category 3, Harmful (Xn). Risk Phrase: R40 Limited evidence of a carcinogenic effect
- GHS – Classification: Carcinogen Category 2. Hazard Statement: Suspected of causing cancer
The report notes that there are no studies demonstrating that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) cause mesothelioma.
Comcare Asbestos Forum
If you are interested in attending the free Comcare forum on Monday November 26 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Melbourne, you need to register now. The forum will explore asbestos management and the impact it has within Comcare workplaces, showcase case studies and look at the practicalities of implementing the recommendations of the Asbestos Management Review. The forum program will be relevant to support groups, medical professionals, legal representatives and those with an interest in the continued development of workplace health, safety and rehabilitation.
Read more and register
From WorkSafe Victoria:
- Evacuation lighting on construction sites - clarifies the requirements for emergency lighting and exit signage on designated emergency evacuation routes on construction sites.
- Bracing insert fails on concrete panel - Highlights the dangers of using unmarked lifting, bracing and fixing inserts in concrete.
- Pallet racking maintenance - This information about sheet is an update of existing guidance to incorporate new standard and new requirements
- Soft sling fails during lift - This Safety Alert highlights the dangers associated with using synthetic fibre slings, often known as soft slings, in construction. It also provides advice on how to control the risks
- Battery powered parking sensor - This Safety Alert was developed after a worker received burns to his legs and face when a parking sensor buried in a car park bay exploded.
From Workcover NSW
- Safety alert: Cleaning solvents and thinners which addresses the adverse health effects of volatile solvents and thinners, which 'have the potential to cause a person to lose consciousness, and suffer a cardiac arrhythmia and possibly death when used in an enclosed or poorly ventilated area'.
From Safe Work Australia:
- Managing risks to health and safety at the workplace fact sheet
- Electrical risks at the workplace fact sheet
Geelong company fined after pub death
A Geelong company Hillcrest Private Nursing Home Pty Ltd, which operated the Royal Mail Hotel, has been convicted and fined $80,000 in the Geelong Magistrates' Court, following the death of a worker who was overcome by carbon dioxide gas in the cellar of a Birregurra hotel.
In March 2010 a 54-year-old man collapsed and died while moving empty beer kegs which were connected to carbon dioxide cylinders in the hotel cellar. WorkSafe's investigation into the incident found a cylinder containing carbon dioxide had leaked resulting in a significant increase in the level of gas in the cellar when the man entered. Following the incident, WorkSafe directed the Royal Mail Hotel to install a cellar alarm system to warn workers of carbon dioxide leaks before they enter.
WorkSafe's Regional Director, Adam Rogers, said it was a timely reminder of the risks of working in enclosed spaces. 'With or without a gas leak or chemical exposure, limited means of entry and exit, poor circulation, and working in these spaces, is dangerous,' he said. 'This isn't just an issue for pubs and clubs – small and large organisations across industry have a responsibility to make sure workers are safe.'
Read more: Cellar and cool rooms - Beverage gas leaks WorkSafe Media Release
Geelong company fined over crush incident
East Geelong company, Huyck Wangner Australia Pty Ltd, was last week fined $55,000 after a worker was dragged hip-deep into a machine causing serious pelvic and ankle injuries. The company, which makes felt for conveyer belts, pleaded guilty at the Geelong Magistrates' Court.
In April last year, the worker, contracted by Skilled Group Ltd to work at the company as a machine operator, was dragged feet-first into a roller on a loom while trying to remove loose yarn from fabric. His pelvis was fractured in two places and his ankle was injured.
Regional Director Adam Rogers said proper guarding was cheap and effective. 'We continue to see workers being hurt by common types of machines, and often the hazards and solutions are well known,' he said. 'It's essential employers get on the front foot by taking a preventative approach to identifying and controlling the risk of dangerous machines at their workplace.'
WorkSafe's investigation found there had been no hazard identification for operating the loom, inspecting fabric or removing loose yarn, and no interlock switch which would have prevented the machine from operating if someone was inside it.
Labour hire company, Skilled Group Ltd, also faces one charge in relation to the matter. They have pleaded guilty to the charges and are expected to appear in court on 26 November.
WorkSafe Media Release
Employers need to act on complaints
The NSW District Court has stressed that employers need to act when complaints from staff, after awarding a worker $422,000 in damages for a back injury. In March 2005, a Health Support Services Pty Ltd worker was pushing a trolley filled with wet linen when the wheels became stuck. As she pushed and pulled the trolley to loosen the wheels, she felt a sharp pain in her back, which turned out to be a serious injury: the next day she could not feel her lower limbs, could not pass urine and could not use her bowels. Her whole person impairment was assessed as 33 per cent.
Workers often complained to supervisors that the trolleys would often be overloaded and material - such as cord, cotton or lint - would get caught in the wheels, making them difficult to push. However the employer, who denied liability for the worker's injury, took no action.
The Judge found the employer was negligent as it was not safe to require the worker to move heavy trolleys without assistance and to move trolleys with jammed wheel/s. 'The [employer] was aware that manual workers were liable to injure their backs and it was incumbent on the employer to set up and maintain a safe system of work,' he said. 'That would not have been difficult to do, as it merely required the provision of assistance to carry out the work and/or someone to clean the foreign material from the wheel of the trolleys.'
Lila Prasad v Health Support Services P/L  NSWDC 190 (14 September 2012)
Bangladesh: Toxic tanneries harm child workers
As workers as young as 11 fall sick in tanneries in Bangladesh, the government is standing by and doing nothing, according to a new report. Research by Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals workers in many leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh neighbourhood of Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital become ill because of exposure to hazardous chemicals and are injured in horrific workplace accidents. The tanneries export leather worth hundreds of millions of dollars for use in luxury goods. The 101-page report, 'Toxic tanneries: The health repercussions of Bangladesh's Hazaribagh leather', documents 'an occupational health and safety crisis among tannery workers, both men and women, including skin diseases and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to tanning chemicals, and limb amputations caused by accidents in dangerous tannery machinery.' Pollution from the tanneries means the ill-health spills over into the community. The Hazaribagh tanneries, which make up about 90 per cent of the industry nationwide, employ up to 15,000 workers. Workers told HRW that many tanneries did not supply appropriate or sufficient protective equipment or training to work with the harmful chemicals and aging machinery. Some managers deny sick leave or compensation to workers who fall ill or who are injured on the job, in violation of Bangladeshi law. Children, some as young as 11, were engaged in hazardous work, such as soaking hides in chemicals, cutting tanned hides with razor blades, and operating dangerous tanning machinery.
Source: Risks 577 Read more: Human Rights Watch News release and report, Toxic tanneries: The health repercussions of Bangladesh's Hazaribagh leather.
REACH being copied in China and India
China and India have begun work on beefing up legislation on the production and marketing of chemicals. The scale of these legislative reforms is immense. The emerging countries (the BRIICS group, standing for Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa) now represent 28% of world chemical production, compared to 13% ten years ago. The health cost for their populations is immense. According to World Health Organisation researchers, mortality attributable to dangerous chemicals stands at about 4.9 million deaths per year worldwide. Both China and India have undergone huge increases in the numbers of cases of cancer, with 1.5 million deaths per year in the former and 635,000 in the latter.
The planned reforms in India - which refer explicitly to the Community's REACH - seek to make it mandatory to register substances, to restrict or ban the use of the most dangerous substances and to create a national inventory to be managed by a public authority. Public consultation is underway, and the new legislation should be adopted by the end of 2012 or early in 2013.
In China, Decree 591 was adopted in December 2011. It seeks to harmonise and improve a series of prior rules. It rests upon principles comparable to those in REACH in terms of the registration and evaluation of substances. It is still probably less ambitious in the area of restrictions and prohibitions. The decree applies to both Chinese producers and foreign businesses importing their products on to the Chinese market.
Read more: ETUI Media Release
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